South Korean molecular diagnostics company SolGent and RNA extraction-equipment maker Genolution announced a strategic partnership to jointly supply their products to countries affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, in a move to help curb the spread of the novel virus.
SolGent and Genolution signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on March 11 to jointly export their COVID-19 related products, sources with knowledge of the matter said. They plan to supply coronavirus test kits as well as reagents and equipment for nucleic acid extraction from the virus’s RNA in one bundle to their overseas customers.
The idea behind the collaboration of the two companies is to curb the rapid worldwide spread of the illness by facilitating patient screening.
The coronavirus testing process consists of three steps: collection of samples, RNA extraction from the sample and testing for the virus from diagnosis kits. Products provided by Genolution and SolGent are each related to the second and third step in the process.
DiaPlexQ – the COVID-19 test kit developed by SolGent – performs real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to search for the virus in the sample.
The product got emergency approval from the country's Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC) in late February that allowed it to be used for the diagnosis of the virus. SolGent became the third domestic company that received such approval after KogeneBiotech and Seegene.
“DiaPlexQ can diagnose COVID-19 within an hour and 45 minutes, the fastest speed when compared to rival products,” a representative from SolGent said. “In the first week of this month alone, we received orders from China for 400,000 of the test kit as well as orders from the Middle East and South America for a combined more than 200,000. We are currently operating at our full capacity to fill a flood of orders from overseas customers.”
SolGent is in talks to export its test kit to more than 30 countries worldwide. Among them are Japan and Hong Kong as well as Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Also included are all of the Middle East countries as well as major European countries – including Italy, the center of the outbreak in Europe.
Genolution provides Nextractor-48 (NX-48), an automated nucleic acid extraction system. NX-48 has a competitive edge with its processing speed: It can process 48 samples in 10 minutes. By comparison, Swiss pharma giant Roche’s Magna Pure, which dominates the market globally, can process 96 samples in an hour.
NX-48 is also more competitive than Magna Pure in terms of costs. Each test performed by using Magna Pure costs between $6 and $8, while the same test can be performed at a cost of about $3 with NX-48. The equipment itself also costs roughly $20,000, which is more than 80 percent cheaper than Magna Pure.
“At the beginning of the outbreak in South Korea, most of the coronavirus tests were done by using Roche’s Magna Pure. But a surge in the number of tests, combined with the supply shortage, has resulted in a big increase in demand for Genolution’s NX-48,” an industry insider said.
Currently, the share of NX-48 being used for RNA extraction in the country’s coronavirus tests has reportedly reached nearly 50 percent of the total number of tests.
In addition, Genolution signed a deal to provide 70 of NX-48 to its partner company in China earlier this year when the coronavirus started spreading widely there. It has already completed the export of 50 of them, with the remaining 20 expected to be shipped within the next couple of weeks.
“Going forward, we will continue to work together to export our COVID-19 related products, especially targeting the U.S. and European countries where the virus started spreading rapidly in recent days,” the two companies said.(By reporter Kang In-hyo)